By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
Nokia's N8 smartphone is the long awaited, much talked about pinnacle product for the current Symbian OS. Riding on a refined touchscreen form factor, sporting an industry leading 12 Megapixel camera with Zeiss optics and the first implementation of HDMI-out we've seen on a smartphone, the N8 is an engineering marvel and a multimedia marvel but is it enticing enough to turn heads in today's crowded smartphone market.
Nokia sent us our test Nokia N8 ($80.00 on a three-year plan from Rogers), cleverly ensconced in a film reel tin to highlight the device's media and moviemaking slant. Clever concept, although our building security thought the mysterious tin contained holiday cookies.
Out of the box, we marvelled at the N8's industrial design. Clad almost entirely in aluminum, the N8 really feels like a premium phone and one of the best designs we've seen from Nokia in a while.
Cool to the touch, the aluminum casing and the rounded corners and edges do make the N8 slippery, so as much as we like the device as it is, we wouldn't hesitate to get a protective case for it.
the Nokia N8 runs on Symbian ^3 (now renamed to simply Symbian) and is an HD enabled handset which means that users will be able to record HD video in 720p.
Concealed under a plastic cover on the top of the N8 a full sized HDMI slot that, when connected to the included HDMI mini cable and a HDTV, will output HD video.
Unlike Nokia models in the past, the N8's rear cover does not come off and you access the microSD card and the SIM card slots from the side of the device. The battery is sealed-in and not user replaceable. The N8 comes with 16GB of memory but you can extend this further by adding higher capacity microSD cards which we noticed have recently come down in price.
During the launch event of the Nokia N8, we were able to play Angry Birds on the Nokia N8 that came out bright and clear on the Bang and Olufsen HDTV.
We were also treated to the third trailer of Tron: Legacy as well as a number of short features that were shot and edited directly on the Nokia N8.
The camera on the Nokia N8 is a 12 Megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens and a Xenon Flash. We found it to be a fast and easy to use camera for taking stills. It comes with face recognition software that worked accurately.
The Xenon flash is a definite improvement over previous LED type flashes we've seen and not only does it offer more even lighting, it seems to work well with action shots. The N8 offers a surprising number of options with the built in camera and you can even get fancy with Nokia Panorama, a free app from the Ovi store that takes away all the hassle of stitching photos together for panoramic shots.
The imaging sensor on the Nokia N8 is a large 1/1.83″ and maximum ISO speed (1200) and minimal focus distance (10cm). This would be impressive on a standalone point-and-shoot camera but is even more outstanding on a full-featured smartphone.
While we found shifting between video and still photo mode on the N8 a little tricky (due to the fact you need to set preferences on the screen), we were surprised at the quickness of the camera when it came to shooting photos even in dimly lit situations which is where most phone cameras fail.
Above is a photo taken with the N8 in broad daylight.
The photo was taken in a poorly lit room during the N8 launch.
As for the video quality, the Nokia N8 can compete with popular standalone handheld video cameras and in the right hands can do a very decent job of crafting a nice HD video. Nokia showed us some animation by Aardman (from Wallace and Gromit fame) as well as a short film that looked really great on the large TV screens.
Nokia also offers quick and easy ways to edit video as well as create interactive slideshows right on the N8 which will be popular for creative users who like to shoot, edit and then upload video on the go.
In terms of multimedia, the N8 may just be this year's powerhouse. It also sports an ultra saturated 16:9 nHD (640 x 360 pixels) OLED screen that's power efficient yet crisp and saturated. It is one of the better screens for playing back video on. You can play 720p HD video at 30 frames per second. We watched recent episodes of Top Gear as well as movi trailers and were thoroughly pleased with the playback quality.
As a smartphone, you get all the benefits of the Symbian OS plus the OVI store (which sees around 3 million downloads a day) running on Nokia's most advanced hardware. The browser supports Flash and is reasonably fast although we noticed that keyboard input can take up a lot of the screen real estate. It is not horrible but definitely something to get used to.
Nokia has really gone the distance to make the N8 a competitive and attractive smartphone and it has achieved a lot in terms of design and execution. Symbian users who have enjoyed Nokia's platform now have the best device in that smartphone platform and will not be disappointed.
Mobile OS agnostic users who just want a cool and connected phone that works well, can do double duty as a Flip camcorder and point-and-shoot camera will also be pleased with what the Nokia N8 has to offer. This includes a decent web-browsing, sensible e-mail and messaging, a potential for great mobile gaming experience and free lifetime navigation from Ovi Maps in a sleek and well-designed handset
Rating: 4 out of 5